Networks to separate music

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I had written in yesterday's post that one of the most effective ways to isolate a DAC from a computer is not using fancy USB devices (although they DO work), but to use the home's network instead. Before we delve deeper into the subject to understand what's going on, what's different between network traffic and USB traffic, let's look again at why we want to separate computers from DACs in the first place. As I had mentioned computers were never designed to be audio players. Just like a car was never designed as a listening room. True, computers and cars play music, but they are not the ideal vehicles (no pun intended) for making great audio. Think of them as jacks of all trades, they do a lot of stuff well, but providing high-end quality music isn't one of their strong suits. And part of the reason they don't work as well as we might wish has to do with the very thing that makes them valuable to us: their complexity. Think of what your desktop computer is charged with doing. Its task load is almost hard to visualize. Emails, web surfing, storing and retrieving information from a disc, displaying moving pictures on a video screen, responding to mouse and keyboard requests, checking this, checking that, keeping time and trying to be friendly all at the same time. That's a tough load for any machine and the more ease of use we build into these boxes the greater their load and complexity. In fact, it's ironic. The simpler a computer becomes to its user, the more complex it becomes to its designer. Computers are noisy hostile environments for the innocent bits playing our music. And computers are happy to share their internal hostility with anything connected to it, like a mosquito spreading a virus. The less direct contact our audio systems have with computers the better off we are when it comes to sound quality. So if our goal is to take advantage of a computer's hard work and magical abilities to play music from around the world at the touch of a button or screen, we also would like to keep our distance from these noisy boxes. More tomorrow.
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Paul McGowan

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